21 Days of Posts – Day 20 – Connections Between People

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Welcome to Day 20! In this post I want to talk about connections, mostly connections between people.

Most humans crave connection to other humans. I say most, not all, because there are people out there who would rather connect with their dog, or cat, or pet python than deal with the chaos of connecting to other people. Connecting to other people can be messy and complicated, as everyone brings their own baggage into a relationship, any kind of relationship. It doesn’t always have to be messy, but more times than not, messy is the operative description.

We crave connection with other people for a variety of reasons. Security. Looking for a kindred spirit. Someone to share experiences with. Love. Some things in life are just better shared with other people. Food. Music. Excitement. Laughter. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. All of these are generally better when shared with other people.

But how do we make these connections in the first place? I could copy and paste both previous lists right here and be mostly right again. Shared likes, shared dislikes, pain, trauma-all are ways that we connect. Some experiences are more binding than others. If all we ever did with our friends was go out to eat or to a concert, we would develop connections with them, but not as deeply as if we were to experience intense joy or deep sorrow with them. Intensity of experience factors in heavily when we discuss the strength of our connections with others.

Another key component of making strong connections is dealing with unexpected circumstances. This can be as joyous as playing a new game for the first time with a group of friends, or as tragic as losing a loved one, family or friend. When unexpected things happen, bonds are formed that are tough to break. Ask anyone who goes through a traumatic experience with a group. Ask a military veteran how deep the bonds with his or her unit are, especially if they’ve seen combat.

Connections between people make the world go ’round. The saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is so true in so many circumstances. We find that unfair at times, but just as “luck favors the prepared”, so too can we say “luck favors the connected”. People get jobs and find opportunities all the time because of who they know.

High-dollar, luxury item salesmen know the power of connection all too well. If they can make a connection with a potential customer, that customer is more likely to decide they really do need that giant TV, extravagant boat, higher-priced car, or totally useless memorabilia item. Not making a  connection will tend to result in no sale unless the customer had decided what they wanted before they walked into the store.

Not every connection we make is going to be life-changing or even cause us to think twice, but there are three connections we all should make that WILL make a difference in our lives. You know what they are…connection to God, connection to people, and connection to purpose. Sound familiar? I hope so. How are your three connections doing? What do you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, or next month to make those connections stronger?

Thanks for reading to the end! Only one more blog post to go! Join me tomorrow for one last post in this series, then please follow me as I continue to post throughout my journey to complete a book. That series will most likely be weekly, not daily, and will be interspersed with other posts on various topics. More details to follow!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 19 – Why I Write About Broken Characters

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 19 and I’m writing about writing again. Specifically, I’m writing about why I include broken characters in my works of fiction. It doesn’t matter if the character is a good guy or a bad guy in my stories, they can be broken.

Again, duh! That’s why we love our favorite stories, to see our broken characters overcome their brokenness or, conversely, see how broken the bad guy can be. Sure, that’s true. We love the antiheroes, the down-on-their-lucks, the once-was-bad-but-now-see-the-light conversions. It’s what makes many stories work. It’s the bread and butter of so many action movies, love stories, sports chronicles, and crime dramas. There are entire TV networks that wouldn’t have any programming if not for the shows about really pretty, but broken characters.

The real question is-why? Why do we love these characters? Many of them are violently altered, psychologically damaged, or are just the unluckiest people (characters) alive. Because we love it when things get fixed. We love it when characters mend. We’re tickled by serial character arcs where the good guys become the bad guys, then return to goodness again, or not.

I generally rip things away from my characters “off screen”. I introduce my characters already broken and sometimes let the reader get a glimpse of how they were before. Not that I don’t rip things away from them during the events of the story, but they generally start out missing something. Whether that something is the entire point of the story, or I put them back together as a bonus for completing whatever quest I send them on will vary from story to story.

Their brokenness will invariably be based on things that I gravely fear – the loss of a spouse, severe bodily damage, the loss of a job or livelihood, and more, are on my list of “things I never want to experience”. So I write about them. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect it is an attempt to comprehend the tragedy without actually experiencing it. With my characters, I can write their reaction, then if I feel it isn’t right, I can rewrite it. You can’t do that in real life, at least not easily.

It’s a challenge to realistically show the development and healing of a character. It forces me to really dive into a character, to ask that character dozens of questions, about their likes, dislikes, family, temperament, and all manner of other probing questions. The nice thing is they can never get angry, or clam up, or change the subject. If so, I would have to ask myself why this character, who owes their existence to me, is acting up…

It’s simple really. Characters drive stories, and whether we can relate to their tragedy or simply be glad we haven’t experienced it, broken characters have the ability to pull us into a story, make us feel the emotions and reactions and cause us to take an interest in what happens to each of them, even the bad ones.

Thanks for reading to the end! Only two more days left!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 18 – Why I Listen to Billie Eilish

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 18! Closing in on the end of this 21 day project! Thanks for sticking with me!

This post will expound on my appreciation for the work of one Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, known by fans as Billie Eilish or just Billie. She splashed onto the scene in 2015 when she dropped Ocean Eyes on Soundcloud much like a previous artist I wrote about back on Day 14, Marshmello. She collaborates and performs shows with her brother Finneas, who produced Ocean Eyes for its publication on the previously mentioned music website.

Why, oh why, you ask, do you like this odd, unpredictable, earthy teenager’s music? It can be so problematic, so disturbing, so…odd.

Yes, I say, to all of that. Her music can be problematic. She sings about topics many would prefer not to hear about, for a number of reasons. The songs that are free of these disturbing and definitely odd topics are generally incredible. I’ve mentioned before that I not only sing bass, but love to listen to it and Billie’s songs provide that bass groove in spades. Deep, intricate, and imaginative bass lines are a hallmark of her music, as is her breathy, some say ethereal, voice. Oddball rhythms, ambient noise, passionate, but flexible choruses, and probing, intimate lyrics all combine to make some great songs.

I’ll skip any more introduction of the artist. If you’ve heard of her, you’ve probably already checked out her official page and her Wikipedia page. If you haven’t and are interested, the links are right there. I’m going to jump into the recommended tracks portion of this post.

First, the uptempo tracks. You Should See Me In A Crown, Bellyache, and My Strange Addiction all have interesting bass lines, quirky vocals and lyrics, and have a slightly dark overtone to them. The broodiness in the lyrics is countered by the vocal delivery. Watch and its remix &Burn are a little lighter in tone, and both still sound great, whether you like the “rapless” Watch or the “rap enhanced” &Burn. They all will work your speakers hard to reproduce the bass lines.  They’ll get your head boppin’, particularly one infectious bit of the chorus in Bellyache.

Now for the really impressive tracks. These are all downtempo and lot more contemplative. Still quirky at times. I Love You, When The Party’s Over, and Six Feet Under are rich in plaintive narrative about love, relationships, and loss. Billie’s breathy vocals on I Love You, plus the ambient noises and hints of confusion and chaos make it one of my favorite tracks.

Which leaves just a few more tracks that are in the middle between these two extremes. HostageOcean Eyes, and Lovely, a duet with Khalid, are all very atmospheric and experimental at times. They each have interesting lyrics and paint great sound pictures with the instruments. Indeed, Ocean Eyes, with its lush sounds, is the song that started the whole giant swell of notoriety for Billie.

Does her music have issues? A few, yes, but the gems mentioned here are exactly why I listen to her often, as long as I have a good stereo system available. Unless you’re sporting $300 Beats headphones, these tracks will not sound anywhere near as good as they really are. Even then, once you hear these songs on a good system, feeling the bass right in your chest, headphones don’t do them justice anymore.

Thanks for reading to the end! I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe found a new artist you like.

Three more days of posts to go! Come back tomorrow to learn more about my writing style, then we’ll finish with two articles on relationships and faith.

 

Photo Credit – crommelincklars – Billie Eilish @Pukkelpop 2019

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 15 – Why I Write About Impossible Decisions

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 15! Woot! We’re moving along in this 21 days of posts.

First, I want to thank you for reading these. It’s fun writing them and I hope they are fun to read.

Today’s post expounds on why I write about impossible decisions. This is another one of those times, dear reader, where you may say “duh!” because lots of stories, particularly ones we cherish, are all about impossible decisions. We encounter self-sacrifice, heart-rending choices, and “no way out” situations all the time in books, movies and TV shows.

We are teased by these moments, because they invariably occur at the end of a chapter, or at the end of a movie in a series, or at the end of the current episode of our favorite show. We’re then made to wait, either long enough to turn the page, or for a whole year (or two) for the next movie to come out, or just a week or so before the next episode. The whole time we are debating in our head “how would I choose?” and wondering how our hero or heroine is going to choose.

Sometimes, a third party intervenes, and the impossible situation or choice is taken out of the hands of the lead character. We’re generally let down by such deus ex machina moments, unless it’s in an action movie, because that’s pretty much their bread and butter. We expect it then. Other times, and these are the ones we actually like more (usually), there is no sudden rescue and the choice, once made, results in loss, heartbreak, or other bad things happening that have to be cleaned up later (or not).

One of the best examples of dealing with impossible decisions is found in the CW show The 100. The show is loosely based on a YA series of books by Kass Morgan. The show runs right past the books in the first season and thank goodness for that. I can’t really recommend the books unless you just want to see the differences. With that said, I can’t really recommend the show to the age group the books were targeted for. There are themes and situations in the TV episodes which take place after the events of the books that are very adult, not “young adult”, defined as 12-18 year olds in the literary category. But back to impossible choices…

The lead protagonist Clarke Griffin, is quickly thrown into a leadership position she really doesn’t want. Time after time during the first season, and even more in later seasons, she must make decisions that not only affect her and the people she considers family and friends, but the entire human race. Your head and your heart ache for her as she is repeatedly forced to make decision after decision, none of which have good choices. I highly recommend binging on the first six seasons before the seventh, and probably final, season starts in April 2020.

Enough promoting a favorite show. The point of all that was to say that it really only takes a few of these gut-wrenching decisions to make a book, a movie, or a show your favorite. We vicariously participate in the decision process, weighing the options, seeing no good one, then trying to find that slim chance to escape the choice altogether. This is why I write these into my books. I want to drag the reader along on a journey with the characters and make them feel what the character is feeling. Done right, this is some of the best entertainment available. I hope someday you all will get a chance to read about the impossible decisions my characters will face.

But that means I have to finish, really finish, a book and as I have stated before, I hope these 21 days of posts help to jumpstart me on that journey.

One last list before this post concludes. If you are looking for books or movies that involve impossible decisions, without resorting to Nicholas Sparks style fiction, I recommend the following items:

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth. You have to read all three books to get the full effect.

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. There’s a lot of words to slog through, but the choices and decisions made by multiple characters are intimidating and difficult. I don’t recommend taking the shortcut and watching Game of Thrones as so much detail is left out there, even with all of its adult content.

Rogue One, the best of the Star Wars side story movies, is an excellent example of impossible decisions (and sacrifice).

I hope you enjoyed this post and hope that you maybe found a new favorite show or book. Come back tomorrow as I expound on my thoughts on the church as a body.

Thanks for reading to the end!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 14 – Why I Listen to Marshmello

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

It’s Day 14 and I’ve decided to NOT change my topic, or artist.

Before we get started, I again want to thank you for reading these posts. They are short and many times have no point whatsoever, but I enjoy writing them. I hope they get me fired up and ready to finish a book this year, and I hope you get some amount of pleasure from reading them.

Marshmello. Nope, that is not a misspelling. The EDM artist and DJ, Marshmello, who wanders around in a marshmallow-shaped mask/bucket all the time, much like Daft Punk and Deadmau5 do with their headwear, is kind of a big deal on the music scene. His real name is Christopher Comstock. Ever since 2015, when he released an original track on the music website Soundcloud, he’s been making waves, and not just musical ones, everywhere he goes.

Marshmello has collaborated with musicians across the spectrum, from pop queens like Selena Gomez, to R&B and rap artists, like Khalid and Crankdat to rock bands like A Day to Remember. His music ranges from extremely chilled to wildly chaotic, and the lyricists and lyrics range from the syrupy sweet to the downright vulgar.

Yes, there are a number of tracks of his I don’t listen to, as they glorify the same kinds of terrible ideas that some rap and rock music do – drugs, misogyny, “ghetto life”, gangs, promiscuity, and crudeness of all kinds. But the tracks that these thorny issues are absent from are almost all incredibly enjoyable.

Before I dive into recommended tracks, I feel obligated to explain exactly why I like Marshmello. That’s kind of the point of the post. I like listening to Marshmello for at least three main reasons.

First, I don’t just sing bass, I love to listen to bass, and Marshmello never disappoints when it comes to quality, deep, bass lines. Even in the songs I don’t listen to, the bass lines are awesome. Maybe I can find instrumental versions of those. (Ha ha)

Second, almost all of his work is multi-layered synths and electronic loops over which talented lyricists sing their songs. I grew up fiddling with music on early home computers and that electronic sound is a huge part of my musical psyche. I love the ragged waveforms and thick mixes that Marshmello puts together.

Third, I respect the wide collaborative arc that he has pursued. I’ve already mentioned some of the artists he has worked with and the number is growing. Being able to work with such a wide range of styles is a tribute to his skills as a music producer.

So, what’s safe to listen to from Marshmello?

I highly recommend Sad Songs, Room To Fall, and Rescue Me, all from Joytime III. There are other gems on that same album like Falling to Pieces, Run It Up and Down. The singles AloneHappier, and Wolves are all excellent choices. That’s a good start, and further exploration I leave to you.

As I mentioned already, you have to be selective about which tracks to listen to, but the talent and the great music are worth the time to curate some lyrics. Google makes it easy to do this, and most of the time, if you know anything about the collaborating artist, you’ll have some idea what kind of lyrics will accompany the music.

So there it is, another look into my musical playlist. I hope it didn’t convince you I was crazy…

Thanks for reading to the end! Tomorrow we’ll circle back to an exposition on one of my recurring writing themes and the day after that, I’ll post about the concept of the church as a body.

 

Photo Credit – Q1q2q3qwertz  –  CC BY-SA 4.0